Monday, October 26, 2009

Well-Known Photographer Chris Jordan Explores Plastics in the Ocean

Photographer Chris Jordan and friends recently traveled to the US territory the Midway Atoll (also known as the Midway Islands) in order to document the effects of marine debris on the Laysan Albatross.

The Laysan Albatross is one of 21 albatross species. The IUCN has identified 19 of these 21 species as threatened or endangered. The large seabirds make their home on remote oceanic islands; the Laysan Albatross calls the Midway Atoll home.

The Midway Atoll is a 2.4 mile large stretch of coral and sand, located near the northwestern end of the Hawaiian archipelago, about one-third of the way between Honolulu and Tokyo.

photo: The white dot in the center indicates the location of the Midway Atoll.

The Midway Atoll, located in the Pacific Ocean, is not far from the site of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

photo: prepared by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has received a lot of media coverage in the last year, and was even featured on Oprah. (Watch her segment on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch here.)

While some say that the mass of plastic is twice the size of Texas, NOAA has reported that the size of the mass is unknown. Additionally, the highly-regarded Captain Charles Moore has reported that there are floating garbage patches in NINE of the planet's ocean gyres - the Great Pacific Garbage patch is not the only one.

The world's plastic waste (which when found in the ocean is referred to as "marine debris") is having disastrous effects on the Laysan Albatross. Since the Laysan Albatross is a scavenger that feeds both on land and at sea (by surface seizing and diving) they mistakenly pick up bits of marine debris that resemble squid, fish, and krill, and bring these items back to their nests on the Midway Atoll to feed to their chicks.

The plastics that the parents feed to their young obstruct the chicks' digestive systems, making the birds feel full yet providing no nutrition, thereby causing the birds to starve to death. (This happens to the adult birds too; not just their chicks.)

Chris Jordan took these photos to show the world what is happening to the Laysan Albatross.

To document what is happening to the albatrosses as faithfully as possible, not a single piece of plastic in any of these photographs was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged, or altered in any way. These images depict the actual stomach contents of baby birds in one of the world's most remote marine sanctuaries, more than 2,000 miles from the nearest continent.

To view the rest of Chris' photos and to read the group's blog, go here. To view the photos in a fullscreen slideshow format, go here.

For more information about Chris Jordan and his other work, check out my previous blog post on Chris.

For more information about marine debris and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch check out Captain Charles Moore's organization the Algalita Marine Research Foundation's free resources for educators here.

This brief summary about marine debris
is fantastic - everyone should read it.

photo: This was not done by Chris Jordan, but it's a good resource - the photo depicts the stomach contents of ONE Laysan Albatross chick that starved to death as a result of marine debris.

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